Have leftover ham and a ham bone? This Old Fashioned Ham and Bean Soup is simple to put together, super flavorful, and freezes well for future meals.

Three black bowls filled with old fashioned ham and bean soup on a rustic wooden tabletop.

Happy Holidays! I wanted to pop in today with a “bookmark this for later” recipe for anybody making a ham this weekend. Bonus points if you’re making my baked ham with pineapple sauce, but any bone-in ham will work!

When I was in culinary school, the chef instructors would literally YELL AT US if we even thought about throwing away any meat bones before using them a second time to make stock, soup or a sauce.

Chef Shawn’s voice will forever echo in my head: “That’s free flavor, chef. Don’t throw that away!” So, don’t throw your ham bone away. That’s free flavor, home chef.

We only have a bone-in ham once or twice a year, and after Easter last year, we made ham and potato soup and homemade breakfast burritos with the left over ham.

So, this time around, we’ll be making this old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe!

What you’ll need for this old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe:

  • navy beans – The dried kind. You’ll need to soak these overnight before you begin this recipe, but it’s so so easy. If you have a handful of dried beans left over, use them as pie weights when you make vegetarian quiche or single crust pies!
  • butter – or olive oil works, too.
  • garlic – because I am incapable of making a soup without garlic.
  • onion – classic mirepoix ingredient #1.
  • carrot – classic mirepoix ingredient #2.
  • celery – classic mirepoix ingredient #3.
  • leftover ham – you’ll need about 1-1/2 cups of leftover ham meat. If you have a little less, that’s fine too. If you have more ham than you know what to do with, chop some up and put it in a batch of breakfast muffins!
  • ham bone – cut this out of your holiday ham. Scrape as much meat as possible off of it for another use, but if there’s still a little meat clinging to it, that’s totally fine.
  • thyme – I used 3 sprigs of fresh thyme in this white bean and ham soup, but a pinch of dried thyme works just as well.
  • bay leaf – I don’t even know if I could tell you what bay leaf really tastes like, I just know every soup has to have one, so this old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe has it, too.
  • salt and pepper – you may or may not need this, more on that later.
Three black bowls filled with homemade ham and bean soup on a rustic wooden background, with bread and herbs decorating the scene.

Soak the beans overnight for this navy bean and ham soup.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I was intimidated by cooking with dried beans for a very long time (so, I always opted for canned beans for things like Dr. Pepper baked beans and white bean salad).

But really, that intimidation turned out to be so silly, because soaking beans is the easiest thing.

To soak navy beans overnight, all you do is rinse the beans off, put them in a big bowl or pot, and cover them with water by a couple of inches. That’s it. You’re done. You’ve soaked the beans and you’re ready to make white bean and ham soup.

The next day, you’ll drain them and discard the soaking water. Then, start making your old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe, using fresh water when it comes time to add water.

Forgot to soak your beans last night, but still want to make this ham bone soup recipe today? The Kitchn has a quick soak method that is just what you need.

Ham bone soup with beans simmering in a red dutch oven with a wooden spoon stirring it.

How to make white bean and ham soup:

So, you’ve already soaked your beans, right? Good!

You’ll start this old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe by sauteeing the mirepoix (plus garlic) in a little bit of butter, to build the flavor base of the soup.

Once the mirepoix is softened, add the soaked and drained beans, the ham and ham bone, thyme sprigs, bay leaf and 8 cups of cold water.

That’s right – we’re not using broth for this white bean and ham soup, just plain old water. The ham bone will infuse the water and make it’s own rich ham broth as the soup simmers.

Bring everything to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Put a lid on the pot and simmer the soup 90 minutes or until the beans are very soft. Give it a stir every once in awhile if you remember. Make a batch of shrimp deviled eggs while it’s cooking, if you have a bunch of leftover hard boiled eggs from Easter.

Carefully pull the bone and thyme sprigs out and discard them.

Assess the consistency of the soup. It should be nice and thick, but if it’s TOO thick for your taste, stir in additional water until you’re happy with the consistency.

The seasoning of this ham bone soup recipe is where it gets somewhat tricky. I don’t add ANY salt or pepper until the very end. The reason being is that sometimes ham bones have the tendency to be very salty.

So, when your navy bean and ham soup is done simmering, taste it, and then season with salt and pepper to your preference. You actually may not need any additional salt.

Closeup on a black bowl filled with rustic vegetable and pork stew.

How long is this leftover ham soup recipe good for in the fridge?

Since you’re starting this old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe with leftover ham, I recommend eating this soup within 3 days of making it.

Or, eat some of this navy bean and ham soup and freeze the rest for future meals. More on that below.

This ham bone soup recipe makes quite a bit of soup.

The elephant in the room is that this old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe makes 10 cups of soup. That’s 2-1/2 quarts, and I know, it’s a lot.

A half batch of this white bean and ham soup MAY be possible, but I haven’t tested it yet.

I fear that a half batch of this leftover ham soup recipe would be overwhelmingly salty due to how salty the ham bone is. Cooking the bone in only 4 cups of water (instead of the 8 cups of water I’ve used below) may not dilute the ham bone seasoning enough.

So, I think if I were to make a half batch of this navy bean and ham soup, I would probably add the ham bone for only about 30 minutes of the simmering time of the soup, and then remove the bone and let the soup finish simmering.

The good news is that, just like my sweet dumpling squash soup, this ham bone soup recipe can be frozen.

Black ceramic bowls filled with a rustic pork and legume stew, with a blue napkin.

Can old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe be frozen?

Yep, just like my sweet dumpling squash soup, this old fashioned ham and bean soup recipe can be frozen!

The texture of the navy bean and ham soup may change a little bit when it’s reheated (the beans may become even softer), but if that won’t bother you, I say go for it.

I thought this ham bone soup recipe was just as delicious having been frozen and reheated as it was the first time around. And it was so nice to have a few containers of this soup in my freezer for easy meals on busy weeknights.

What to serve with ham and bean soup:

This ham bone soup recipe is pretty filling on it’s own, so you don’t necessarily NEED a side dish.

But, if you’d like a fresh salad to serve alongside this leftover ham soup recipe, my Thanksgiving salad, Christmas salad, Easter salad and Easter fruit salad are great options all year long, not just on those particular holidays.

And if you’re looking for a little bit of bread to dunk in your navy bean and ham soup, I highly recommend these small batch dinner rolls.

More comforting soup recipes:

There’s nothing like a steaming hot bowl of soup on a cold wintery day, and there’s something in this list for everyone.

Three black bowls filled with old fashioned ham and bean soup on a rustic wooden tabletop.

Old Fashioned Ham and Bean Soup

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Have leftover ham and a ham bone? This Old Fashioned Ham and Bean Soup is simple to put together, super flavorful, and freezes well for future meals.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 leftover ham bone
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 2 cups dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained (see Home Chef tip)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped leftover ham
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. In large pot with lid, heat butter over medium heat. Add garlic, celery, carrots and onion. Cook 4 to 6 minutes or until vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in thyme, bay leaf, ham bone, water, navy beans and chopped ham. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 90 minutes or until beans are very soft, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove and discard ham bone and thyme sprigs. If soup is too thick, stir in more water until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Taste soup and season with salt and pepper to taste. You may not need any salt at all, depending on how salty the ham bone was.

Notes

Home Chef tip: To soak navy beans overnight, rinse the beans with cold water and then put them in a big bowl or pot. Cover beans with cold water by a couple of inches.

The following day, drain the beans and discard the soaking water.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 288Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 622mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 13gSugar: 2gProtein: 20g

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